bono strategic planning process for us. Rob is all about breakthrough strategies, which aligned perfectly with our energetic, ambi- tious group of Co-Founders and Board mem- bers. Having a clear vision with goals and a roadmap for accomplishing them helped give all our stakeholders confidence as we pushed forward in executing our bold vision. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a volunteer labor force was also imperative. We understood that volunteers could only go so far. Although they were a huge asset for us, we needed to look at drawing funding. I’ve seen a lot of community-based organizations where you may start with a strong team, but one person’s more invested than everybody else. Then when there’s no funding to pay salaries, people get burned out and drop out. You’re left with one leader who’s volunteering and making just enough to scrape by, putting in 100% of the work and doing three or four jobs. We knew we had to be strategic and realistic about our business model – if that’s social enterprise, or grants and foundations – but be realistic about only having 24 hours in a day. One of the most common pitfalls in social entrepreneurship is losing focus and drift- ing away from the core mission. Looking at nonprofits and for-profits, start-ups and
organizations that are 20 or 30 years old, it seems like the highest-performing ones are the ones that know who they are and remain true to that. At FRN, we’ve at times been dis- heartened by the funding landscape because there really are very limited programs around food recovery, while there’s a lot more around nutrition education for kids.That’s really hot right now, and funders follow trends. We do a little bit of nutrition education when that’s what the chapter wants to do, and the food we serve tends to be healthier than what many agencies are used to, but nutrition education is not our core model. We’ve resisted the temp- tation to roll out a program around nutrition education, even though that was where the funding was. We’ve had to make tough deci- sions like that, and I’m sure we’ll continue to have to do that, engaging our board and our staff in real communicative conversations. It’s
Ultimately, I’ve learned that’s where leader- ship comes in. Leaders need to be in close touch with their staff and with how a situ- ation the organization is facing will af- fect everyone’s job. They need to have really strong relationships of trust and respect with whomever they are leading. They need to have a clear vision for where the group or or- ganization needs to go and how to get there, and be able to articulate that in a way that moves head and heart. We probably haven’t done quite as good a job as some, but much of our success has come because we’ve done a pretty good job of packaging our story in a way that makes people want to share it and get involved. Organizations with a story that can be shared and an avenue for people to get involved are the organizations that will cap- ture the energy and passion of this generation and help shape a better future.
especially unfortunate since for most of our journey there have been no dedicated grant pro- grams around food re- covery. However, we’ve been very fortunate to connect with the right funders who enabled us to stay who we are and to do what we do best.
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